Calcium supplements associated with increased risk of heart disease

By Alexia Bajalia • Published: December 7th, 2016
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

For those who suffer from conditions like osteoporosis, in which the bones become weak and brittle, or hypocalcemia (hi-po-cal-SEE-me-a), a condition characterized by low levels of calcium in the blood, calcium supplements might sound like an easy fix. But research has shown an association between such supplements and an increased risk for heart disease.

A study by researchers at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine involved more than twenty-seven hundred participants ages 45 to 84 who completed a lengthy questionnaire about their diets and how much calcium they consumed. Participants were also asked to list the supplements they took daily. They then underwent cardiac CT scans to measure their coronary artery calcium scores, or plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries of their hearts. Calcification in the arteries indicates a risk of heart disease.

Ten years later, the tests were repeated. Results published recently in the Journal of the American Heart Association revealed that 46 percent of the participants who used calcium supplements were 22 percent more likely to experience a rise in coronary artery calcium scores, signifying developing heart disease. However, experts noted that those who consumed a high-calcium diet but did not take calcium supplements did not have an increased risk of heart disease.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease. So if you need more calcium in your diet, talk to your doctor, and consider eating more dairy products or calcium-rich foods such as leafy greens or almonds before seeking a supplement.